So, I’m diagnosed bipolar with generalized anxiety and PTSD. The psychologist I saw a couple times actually calls it “Complex Trauma” rather than PTSD, since apparently prolonged and multiple childhood traumas are different but same-ish but different.
Being concise is not my strength, but I’ll try.
I had a hellish childhood, full of divorce, abuse, poverty, extreme bullying, neglect. I grew up fast, really fast, because I had to. I’ve taken care of children since I was 7. I had a clinically, chronically depressed single mom who, not for lack of love, couldn’t take care of us all most of the time. She didn’t know how to clean, budget, run a household. She didn’t work because eventually she couldn’t even get dressed some days. She hoarded, badly, which often meant that we couldn’t see the floor. The countertops. The table. I was often on my own, dealing with 3 children, doing my best to fill in the gap. I didn’t know how to clean, mom didn’t know how. We washed dishes when we needed dishes. Sometimes we washed only the dish we needed. We did laundry when we had nothing clean left to wear. Sometimes not even then. I was a shy, hungry, unkempt, visibly poor kid and at school it made me a target. There was, over the years, a lot of sexual abuse, a lot of brutal bullying at school – I was stomped on, spit on, whipped with sticks. Kicked to the ground, skirt pulled up, shoes stolen and thrown in a garbage can full of rainwater. Inevitably, every day some kid would every so kindly inform me of how ugly and stupid I was, how unloveable, how unlikeable, how unbearable to be around. How my very existence was offensive.
I was raised to be polite, to be nice. I tried to avoid everything as best I could, I tried to fade into the woodwork. I wanted to be invisible. Once, at the mall, my mom told me that I needed a haircut – my bangs were down to my nose and I didn’t part them. I hid behind them. I didn’t want them cut, but she convinced me to get something pretty. The next day the kids laughed at it, laughed at me for trying to look nice, told me I was ridiculous. I’d never fit in. I’d never be good enough. I once fought back, when I was in grade 2 – I kicked a boy in the junk and tried to flee. The other boys caught me. I got beat worse. I never tried to fight back again, I internalized it, it was my fault. If I cried, it seemed to egg them on. They’d hurt me more, taunt me more, cause then I was a crybaby. I learned to laugh. That was my outlet, when I got beaten up, laughter, I learned very early that crying is weak. Crying makes you weak, makes you look weak, makes you vulnerable.
Everything they told me sunk in and became my identity. Too stupid. Too ugly. Too ridiculous. Not enough, not nearly even close to enough, not worth anything. That maybe I just deserved it all, everything bad that happened to me. I was meek and scared, I was that puppy with its tail between its legs shivering in the corner because it has been kicked too many times. That’s the only way I can describe it.
Then we moved, I was just about 11. All the way across the country. It was my fresh start, I thought. Nobody knew me, I could be who I wanted to be. Except, I couldn’t. I didn’t have any confidence in me. I was still that scared beat up puppy, and nobody is drawn to that. Nobody makes friends with that. I didn’t get beat up anymore, but I still didn’t fit in.
There’s a whole lot of shit to unpack in my teen years, but I’m not going there right now, except to say that I was put on Prozac by 13 years old, and diagnosed bipolar at 17.
When I look back, it’s hard for me to discern which pieces of my mental illness are chemical imbalances, true bipolar, and which pieces are trauma. And does it matter which is which? I’m beginning to think it does matter. Because even though I take medication that keeps me sane, lets me sleep, stops me from hallucinating, stops me from rampaging around like a bull in a china shop… I find more and more that it’s not enough. It does what it can. It balances my brain out. But it doesn’t heal any of the trauma, and that’s what’s biting me right now, hard. Painfully hard.
It took me a long time to gain confidence in myself. To feel okay with who I am, how I act, how I think, how I look. Medication and some grounding/breathing techniques helped me with my anxiety. But lately, I’m feeling the highs and lows again. The depression, the anxiety. The fear that everything I do is ridiculous, everything I try is stupid, that if I put effort into something someone will tear it down just to hurt me. The feeling that I’m not enough.
So, every so often I just want to stop doing anything that draws any attention to me. Like writing, here. The last while I’ve been playing that same old, same old record in my head. “You’re not that great. Nobody cares. Why bother? You think you’re so special? You’re not special. It’s all been done before.”
I still struggle to understand why I want to write this blog. Is it cathartic? Am I going to just vent and talk about my struggles? I want it to be more rounded than that, I want it to be me on some pages. All the different aspects of me, and I think there are many.
I forced myself to write this, just to keep some sort of flow going, just to not give up, as usual. I have a bunch of half written posts and I’ll get back to them I’m sure, when I’m in the mood.
Right now, changes are happening in my life, and they’re good changes. Genuinely good, I believe.
But I’m scared that things will improve and I’ll still be… right here. I’ll still be feeling down, I’ll still be overtired, overstressed, overwhelmed, defeated. That maybe some of it is coming not from my situation, but from inside. That maybe I’m still too broken.
I notice a pattern, to be honest, over the years. Times when it all gets to me and I’m just… done. Had enough. Most days, I tell myself that it all is what it is, I can’t change it, no sense being upset. It’s my normal. My chronic pain, my fatigue, my foggy brain. I can hate it, I can resist it, but it’s there no matter what and I have to make peace with it, I have to function to the best of my ability with this, my normal. But every few months it crashes down. I can’t do it anymore, I feel overwhelmed, I feel like crying, not because of the pain but because of the frustration. I feel it’s unfair and maybe I will never ever feel better, only worse. That maybe that’s all I have to look forward to, more of the same, but worse.
Right now, I have no real means of self-care. I live in a house that’s full of tension constantly, where I feel very confined, where I can’t even relax in a bath. I feel very unwanted there, very in-the-way, very this-is-not-my-home. I don’t have a home, I have a place that I go after work and sleep at, really. Simple, basic rundown of the situation. It’s worn on me, on my mental health, immensely and I know it. In a few days we’ll be moving, and I hope to feel more comfortable at home, and like I have a home. A place where I belong, not just exist. And I hope that’s going to make a difference.
Self-care is so important. For real.
I have one autistic son, and one teenager who is now being treated for depression that it took me years to catch on to. So life is a little busier for me, especially with appointments. SO MANY APPOINTMENTS. For myself, for my kids. Add in my piss-poor mental health these days and my fibromyalgia and other little injuries/maladies… I sometimes feel like I’m barely treading water. I forget things. I go to appointments for my kids and get asked questions that I feel I should be able to answer, or I should be able to affirm – yes I am doing all those things for him. I can’t. I often find myself saying “I forgot entirely. I’m trying but I can’t seem to get to it. I’m too tired, sorry.” And feeling that slight twinge of failure. But a while ago I took my son to his psychiatrist and when it was my turn to go talk to her, I sat down, she looked at me and said “You look tired, are you okay?” I mumbled something about being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and having it flare up. She asked me what I do for self-care. I stared blankly. I had no answer. I finally said “I try to spend some time alone sometimes.” That’s it, that’s all I had. And that made me sad.
I don’t have the energy nor am I enough of an extrovert to care for myself by going out, hanging out with people, doing activities. I need to relax at home and recharge and I haven’t been able to relax at home in over a year. So, fingers crossed, that’s coming. Quickly. 3 more days. 3 more days. 3 MORE DAYS.
I caution everyone against saying “I’ll be happy when…” because I feel like happiness has to come from inside. But when a situation is unbearable, I think it’s fair to say “I’ll feel happy when…” “I’ll be happier when I leave this toxic environment.” I hope. My family will be happier. That nagging fear I have that I won’t be happier… I just have to push it away and wait and see, I think. I have to try, anyway.
I know that this is a cycle, that I’ve had enough right now but I’ll feel mentally stronger soon. I just have to ride it out. Whatever will be will be.
And I’ll just keep trying to grow and heal and be the best I can be.
That’s all I can do.